Meet the alumni of one of the whiskey industry’s premier diversity initiatives

Meet the alumni of one of the whiskey industry’s premier diversity initiatives

Two years ago, Jack Daniel’s and Uncle Nearest launched a comprehensive new development program aimed at expanding the diversity of the distilling scene. Now, the first graduates have completed their studies and are ready to start senior positions in both distilleries.

At Jack Daniel’s, the new role of Byron Copeland graduate will find him operations supervisor, focusing on advancing and innovating the whiskey-making experience alongside Master Distiller Chris Fletcher and Assistant Distiller Lexie Phillips. Before Jack, Copeland cut his teeth at Jack Daniel’s Company, Sabra Dipping Company, Target, and Atlanta Jazz Lights.

Fellow graduate Tracy Franklin, a former bartender and whiskey ambassador, is on her way to join the nearest green distillery as the head of a distillery. Future alumni of the program include Du Nord Social Spirits, a small Minneapolis distillery that actively recruits women and ethnic minorities.

Jack Daniel’s and Nearest Greens Progress Initiative was launched in 2020 to thrive in diversity in the spirits industry. As stated, โ€œThis joint initiative aims to [to] Working with participants representing the BIPOC community who aspire to become head distillers, heads of maturity, and production managers. The undertaking will also provide mentorship to BIPOC entrepreneurs during the development of STEM and skills distillation focused in the College of Tennessee’s curriculum.”

The program is made up of three programs, the Leadership Accelerator Program, the Business Incubator Program, and a partnership with Motlow State College.

โ€œI could not have asked for a better experience than to be a part of the Closer and Jack Advance initiative. Learning so many aspects of the industry and working hands-on with my teams Jack Daniel and Brown Forman has been invaluable,โ€ Copeland said in a statement. Some of the best whiskey makers in the industry have been at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery for the past two years. Having the opportunity to help others like me is something I cherish, and I can’t wait to help others establish their careers in this industry. “

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The Akin and Jack initiative is one of a number of new programs focused on diversifying talent in the spirits industry. Last year, Distill Ventures launched a robust pre-accelerator program that serves as a runway for early-stage entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to access seed funding. The accelerator invested $10 million in the program. Since the beginning, ten brands have received funding, including Vervet, a brand of sparkling cocktails, and Kromanti, a spiced Caribbean rum that pays homage to the Kromantis โ€” a group of enslaved Africans.

Aside from this initiative, Uncle Nearest has committed $50 million to invest in BIPOC and women-owned brands, including Sorrel, a fine alcoholic beverage made by Jackie Summers.

The Closer and Jack Initiative consists of three different prongs, a distillery school, as well as a series of apprenticeships and mentorship programs for spiritual entrepreneurs and black distillers. A total of $10 million has been allocated to joint programmes.

The first, Acceleration Leadership, is designed to guide participants from underrepresented communities. The cornerstone of the initiative is Nearest Green Distilling School, a certificate program operated through Motlow State College in Tennessee. Students graduate with a range of employable STEM-based industry skills.

The third tier of the initiative is the business incubator programme. Through this program, entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups will have access to a wide range of resources necessary to start a distillery or spirits business, including time with brand executives, contacts with marketing companies and expanded distribution networks.

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